I lived in Israel for 12 years, and returned to visit only twice. That was a long time ago. On one of those visits, I decided to reconnect with a close friend. He, along with his family, lived in Kiryat Arba, the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Back when I lived in Jerusalem, I’d visit this friend frequently, so Kiryat Arba was almost like a second home to me for a while. Hence, the recent news of a 13 year-old girl’s murder, in Kiryat Arba, sent shivers up my spine and gave me nightmares. How could the citizens of Kiryat Arba have let this happen? Have they allowed their security to become lax over the years?
The last time I was in Kiryat Arba, my friend had to do some shopping in nearby Hebron. Of course, this was done at the suq (Arab marketplace). When we were done, my friend had to interact with an Arab from the window of his car, and he did so with such hatred and contempt that it made me squirm. I’d seen this before from other Israelis. I couldn’t help but wonder what they hoped to accomplish through this behavior. Maybe it was to avoid any signs of what might be perceived as weakness. What we Westerners consider common courtesy and respect can be construed as an invitation to be taken advantage of in the Middle East.
But still, I could never bring myself to treat a stranger this way. For all I know, he could have been Islam al-Bayed. He and his wife stopped to rescue an Israeli family trapped in their car after a terrorist attack. What if one of the rescued children grows up, treats a random Palestinian like shit – and then finds out that the target of his disdain was the same man who saved his life years earlier? How would he feel then?
That’s why I’ve always maintained that it’s best to be nice to people (in most situations) unless you have specific reason not to be.
Blanket hatred for Arabs is the norm in the settlements, or at least it was when I was there. I know that the hatred is reciprocated by the Arabs. This is one reason I no longer call Israel “home.” I could never bring myself to hate Arabs. A couple of times I even rebelled against such hatred.
I’m not saying that such hatred doesn’t serve a purpose; it can help reduce miscegenation, and it can remind people to be wary. But there must be a middle ground, where boundaries are respected, but so are people.
Psychologically speaking, it’s a lot easier to lump all Arabs together and to hate them all. This is especially true when you’re constantly threatened by surrounding Arabs, constantly hearing Arab propaganda against you, and sometimes losing a loved one to Arab terrorism. This is why I’m not so quick to judge the Jews of Kiryat Arba. On the other hand, It’s a sad state of affairs.
These must be trying times for what remains of the family saved by Islam al-Bayed. They grieve for their husband/father. They’re angry at those who attacked them, and those who encourage such attacks. But they must also be grateful to the Arab who saved them. Their world view is now challenged*, and they can no longer be psychologically lazy. Every time they’re tempted to hate all Arabs, they’ll remember al-Bayed. Personal growth could spring from such confusion.
*Assuming, of course, that they’re like so many other Jewish settlers.